Creating an estate plan can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What should you include? How will you know if you’re missing anything?
These are common questions everyone who has decided to plan for the future has, but they can easily be answered. Deciding to take control of your future is the first step of any basic estate plan.
The next step? Finding an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who will be able to guide you through the process while answering all of your pressing questions. A qualified attorney not only will be able to ensure you have the right documents properly filled out according to Florida law, but also can make suggestions for you and your estate based on your unique needs.
So let’s look at the top 5 documents that should be included in any Florida estate plan.
- Basic Will. A will allows you to name beneficiaries – those who will get your assets and property upon your death. If you don’t decide who will get your stuff, the state of Florida will do it for you, and, unfortunately, it’s not always going to be your spouse, kids, or other family members. You can also name a guardian who will take care of any minor children in your will.
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney allows someone else – an agent – to make financial, legal, and administrative decisions on your behalf. You can grant your agent broad or limited power depending on what you are hoping the power of attorney will accomplish. If you so choose, a power of attorney can have access to your bank accounts, handle financial transactions, file taxes, pay bills, buy and sell property, and more.
- Health Care Surrogate. A health care surrogate is a type of advance directive that gives someone the power to make medical decisions for you and in your best interest if you are ever unable to make them for yourself. This document allows your designated surrogate to decide what type of treatment you should or shouldn’t have and consult with your health care providers to make the best possible decisions. Also, make sure it includes a HIPAA provision so your surrogate can have access to all of your medical history and information.
- Living Will. A living will is different from a will where you leave your assets to your beneficiaries. Like a health care surrogate, a living will is an advance directive that states whether you would like to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging procedures if you are in a vegetative state, have a terminal condition, or have an end stage condition. Life-prolonging procedures can include “any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function.”
- Beneficiary Forms. Make sure your beneficiary forms for any life insurance policies and retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), are up-to-date so the appropriate beneficiaries will receive the payouts upon your death.
These are the 5 essential documents to a basic Florida estate plan, but you could also include an inventory of your assets, a list of contacts – including personal advisors and service providers – and a list of your digital accounts and passwords.
With all of these documents, make sure you have copies stored in a safe place, with your attorney, and also given to the appropriate people to ensure that, in the event anything happens, your wishes will be honored.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 24 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011 and 2012 in Estate and Trust Litigation.